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Helix

Helix in concert at the Friendship Festival in Fort Erie, ON July 2008 (L-R: Rick VanDyk, Brian Vollmer, Brent Niemi, Jim Lawson, Paul Fonseca)
Background information
Origin Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Genres Hard rock, heavy metal, glam metal
Years active 1974 - present
Labels H&S Records, Aquarius, A & M Records, Dirty Dog Records, Capitol, EMI/Santuary, Vollmer Records, DeRock Records
Associated acts Saga, My Wicked Twin, Starchild, Ray Lyell, Sean Kelly, Brighton Rock, Killer Dwarfs
Website Helix's Official website
Members
Brian Vollmer
Brent Doerner
Daryl Gray
Greg "Fritz" Hinz
Kaleb "Duckman" Duck
Former members
See Former members section

Helix are a Canadian hard rock/heavy metal band that formed in 1974 and are best known for their single "Rock You" from 1984. The original lineup was formed by drummer Bruce Arnold, and consisted of lead vocalist Brian Vollmer, guitarists Ron Watson and Rick "Minstrel" Trembley, keyboardist Don Simmons, and bassist Keith "Bert" Zurbrigg. Their most well known lineup, however, and the one that recorded "Rock You", was the 80's version of the band: Vollmer on vocals, accompanied by guitarists Brent "The Doctor" Doerner and Paul Hackman, bassist Daryl Gray, and drummer Greg "Fritz" Hinz. This lineup has changed continuously since then, with Brian Vollmer being the sole constant member.

Helix have toured with Kiss, Aerosmith, Rush, Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Heart, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., Ian Gillan, and Motörhead among others.

Contents

History

Early years: 1974-1982

Helix were formed in 1974 for a Battle of the Bands contest in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada by drummer Bruce Arnold. They were originally a six-piece, consisting of Arnold, lead vocalist Brian Vollmer, guitarists Ron Watson and Rick "Minstrel" Trembley, keyboardist Don Simmons, and bassist Keith "Bert" Zurbrigg, who always wore his trademark tuxedo on stage. Their original name was The Helix Field Band, soon shortened to simply Helix.[1] Trembley was fired after a few months, making the band a five-piece. Soon after, Helix scored some crucial shows as Del Shannon's backing band on some Canadian dates. However, the original lineup dissolved by 1976, and three new members entered the fold. Replacing Simmons, Watson and Arnold were guitarists Brent "The Doctor" Doerner and Paul Hackman, who would both remain with Helix through the 80's, and drummer Brian Doerner, Brent's twin brother. Brian would only last a few years, but later joined progressive rock band Saga in the 2000s.[2]

With new management under Kitchener's William Seip, Helix released two independent albums on their own H&S Records, entitled Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather, in 1979 and 1981 respectively. During the sessions for Breaking Loose, Helix recorded a cover of the Del Shannon hit "Thinkin' It Over", unreleased until the 1999 Helix CD B-Sides. Their second album, White Lace & Black Leather saw more lineup changes, with bassist Mike Uzelac replacing Keith Zurbrigg, and drummer Leo Niebudek replacing Brian Doerner. With Zurbrigg gone, Brian Vollmer was now the last remaining original member.

Commercial success: 1983-1989

Changing their image from that of a standard bar band to a more image-conscious metal band, Helix finally signed to Capitol Records after being rejected by them three times. In 1983 they released No Rest for the Wicked, with Greg "Fritz" Hinz (ex-Starchild) on drums. This album featured Canadian hit video "Heavy Metal Love", which featured their new look. Under Seip's advice, Helix dropped their T-shirts and jeans in favour of leather clothing in order to stay current. The tour for this album cycle was not without drama. Mike Uzelac, whose drug use had become problematic, left the band to be replaced by a bass player named Peter Guy from London, Ontario. Guy was unable to travel to the United States due to a previous drug conviction, and Uzelac came back to finish the tour. When Uzelac had fulfilled his commitment, Mark Rector of Kitchener was hired on bass. He was let go at the conclusion of the tour.[3]

The 1984 release of Walkin' the Razor's Edge, with the addition of bassist Daryl Gray completing the classic 80's lineup, sold over 100,000 copies in Canada, and over 400,000 internationally. The band's video for the Crazy Elephant cover "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" caused some controversy several years after its initial release in 1984, when it was learned that among the cast of porn stars who appear nude in the uncensored version, was then 16-year-old Traci Lords. The album also included their best known song "Rock You" and a cover of A Foot in Coldwater's "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want". [3]

In 1985, Helix released their fifth album Long Way to Heaven, featuring the singles "Deep Cuts The Knife" and "The Kids Are All Shakin'". The album allowed the band to tour Sweden, becoming the first Canadian rock band to do an extensive Swedish tour. The result was a #1 album in that country.[4] The following year, their song "It's Too Late" was featured in the movie Iron Eagle and its soundtrack album (this was a completely different song than the track "It's Too Late" that appeared on their second album).

Long Way To Heaven was followed by the release of Wild in the Streets in 1987, featuring the title track and a cover of "Dream On" by Nazareth. One song from that record, "She's Too Tough" was written by Joe Elliot, lead singer for Def Leppard. Leppard also recorded their own version of "She's Too Tough" and released it as a B-side and on their Retro Active album. The recording of Wild in the Streets, done in England with producer Mike Stone, was plagued by extensive takes and remixes.[5] Still, the album went gold in Canada,[6] but only managed a disappointing #179 on the Billboard 200 in the United States.[7]

Capitol released the first Helix compilation album Over 60 minutes with... at the end of 1989, which featured new and unreleased material as well as the hits. At the end of the decade, Brent Doerner quit the band, tired of the grind of touring. Helix was left as a four piece.[3]

Lineup changes and tragedy: 1990-2003

Helix began the 90's with Back for Another Taste, which Doerner contributed songwriting and guitar parts to. On tour, Helix brought in their first American member, Denny Balicky (Blake). While Balicky was not featured in any of their music videos, he did make significant appearances in the MuchMusic hourlong special Walzing With Helix, which documented Helix's European tour with Sacred Reich and Ian Gillan.[3]

After this tour, Vollmer and Hackman began writing songs with the intention of Hackman's material being used for the next Helix release, and Vollmer's going towards a solo album.[3] In the meantime, The Early Years was released by A&M Records, which compiled their first two independent albums on CD for the first time. Helix toured sporadically during this time, including a special reunion show in Kitchener featuring Keith Zurbrigg and the Doerner brothers. A 1992 Western Canadian tour was booked, with Brian Doerner filling in on drums for the unavailable Greg Hinz, and Brent Doerner filling in for Denny Balicki. It was during this tour when disaster struck.

On July 5, 1992, Paul Hackman, not wearing a seatbelt, was killed when the group's van rolled down a 40-foot embankment after a concert in Vancouver.[8][9] Recovering from the shock of his death, Vollmer regrouped with "Doctor" Doerner once again, and also recruited former Brighton Rock guitarist Greg Fraser. Vollmer took the songs he had recorded for his solo album, and released them as the next Helix record, It's a Business Doing Pleasure (released on Aquarius in 1993, their Capitol contract now finished). He included the song "That Day Is Gonna Come" as a tribute to Hackman, and the video for the song featured unique Super 8 and video footage shot by Vollmer on the road over the years. Guests on the album included Lee Aaron in a duet with Vollmer and Kim Mitchell in a guest guitar solo. Brian Doerner played drums on the album.[3] Greg Fraser stated that no then-members of Helix aside from Vollmer himself actually played on the album, since it was in fact a solo album, although they were all pictured and credited in the packaging. [10] Brian Vollmer would later call the album, "a huge mistake on my part, and I take full credit for the blunder. The really sad thing about it all was that I was really proud of all those songs on the album and they were wasted because they did not fit under the Helix name."[11]

After the tour for It's a Business Doing Pleasure Brent Doerner, Greg Fraser, and later Fritz Hinz departed. Brian Vollmer and Daryl Gray were forced to carry on with a rapid succession of replacement guitar players: Rick Mead, Gary Borden, and Mark Chichkan, a rotating cast who played at shows when they were available. In 1996, Glen "Archie" Gamble joined on drums, adding some stability and taking on some of Brian's workload such as road managing duties.[12 ] Five new studio tracks were recorded and released in 1998 on half-ALIVE, including a cover of "The Pusher" by Steppenwolf. Vollmer also released compilations of hits and rare tracks, as well as his first solo album (When Pigs Fly, 1999) through his website. The band continued to play live through this period, using guitar players as they were available. At various times, Mike Hall and Gerry Finn, who were both in Killer Dwarfs, joined Helix on the road, as did Darren Smith, the former Harem Scarem drummer, who had switched to guitar. Periodically the surviving members of the classic 80's lineup would reform, as they did on the B-Sides CD to record three new songs. Daryl Gray left the band in 2002 due to an increasingly strained relationship with Vollmer, leaving Brian as the sole member from their 80's heyday. [3]

Vollmer and Gamble added three new members after the departure of Gray, to bring some stability back to the lineup: Jeff "Stan" Fountain on bass, Dan Fawcett on guitar, and Shaun Sanders on guitar. All three had played together with Gamble in London's Buffalo Brothers.[3][13]

30th Anniversary

In 2004, the 30th anniversary of Helix, the band released several titles to mark the occasion. Their first new studio album of all-original material in over a decade came out, titled Rockin' In My Outer Space.[14] In addition, the band played a special concert at Brantford, Ontario's Sanderson Centre. The then-current lineup of Helix, now featuring guitarists Jim Lawson and producer Rainer Wiechmann, as well as his wife Cindy on acoustic guitar and vocals, played a short set. Vollmer was then joined onstage by members of the original 1974 Helix lineup (Ron Watson, Bruce Arnold, Keith "Bert" Zurbrigg, and Don Simmons). Other past members made appearances (Brent Doerner, Brian Doerner, Leo Niebudek, and Greg "Fritz" Hinz) on hits and rarely played songs from the independent albums, such as "Billy Oxygen". The night was released on DVD as The 30th Anniversary Concert. Released at the same time was the documentary DVD 30 Years of Helix. Two compilation CDs were also put together, Never Trust Anyone Over 30 in the US, and Rockin' You For 30 Years in Canada.[15]

Around this time, Helix experienced a slight resurgence in popularity thanks to a third season episode of the Trailer Park Boys TV show, in which Bubbles and Ricky discuss the merits of Helix compared to Rush. Vollmer also filmed a cameo during the fourth season that was included on that DVD as a deleted scene. Helix was mentioned in several other episodes after this as well, as it was revealed they are one of Ricky's favourite concerts to see, and sell marijuana at.

In July 2005, Vollmer announced that Helix would be entering the studio to record another new album of original material as well as a cover album. The cover album was intended to be released in spring 2006 and consist entirely of Canadian rock songs. The tentative title was Many Are Cold But Few Are Frozen[16], but it never materialized.

Finally, Brian Vollmer published his autobiography, Gimme An R, in December 2005. The book covered the numerous lineup changes and ups and downs of Helix through their 30 year career, along with many rare photos.[17]

Increased activity: 2005-July 2009

In late 2005, Glen Gamble left Helix to form his own band, The Joys. Gamble was briefly replaced by a returning Brian Doerner.[12 ] With Gamble gone, Brian Vollmer was left to manage every aspect of the Helix organization, from booking tours, to distributing Helix merchandise.

More lineup changes ensued in 2006: Brian Doerner again departed, this time to play in Saga. He was replaced by Brent "Ned" Niemi. Rainer and Cindy Wiechmann left amicably and formed their own band Nail. Rainer was replaced by Kitchener's Rick VanDyk, formerly of Zero Option.[18] Finally Jeff Fountain left and was replaced by Paul Fonseca.[19]

In October 2006, the song "Heavy Metal Love" was to be featured on the soundtrack for the Trailer Park Boys movie "The Big Dirty", however, at the last minute, the track was pulled by Dean Cameron, president of EMI Canada, as distribution of the soundtrack was being handled by Universal, and not EMI who owns the track.[20] To make up for this, Helix re-recorded "Heavy Metal Love" and included it on their next release, the 2006 EP Get Up! .[21] The track was still included in the movie even though it did not appear on the soundtrack CD. Get Up! itself was hyped by Vollmer as "...very reminiscent of the No Rest For The Wicked album." [22]

In 2007, Helix re-released all the tracks from Get Up! along with four new studio tracks on a full-length studio album called The Power of Rock and Roll. Unlike the EP, this album received both US and UK releases.[23] In June of that year, Helix played the 2007 Sweden Rock Festival. A new song from The Power Of Rock And Roll called "Fill Your Head With Rock" was chosen as the theme song of the festival.[24]

Following this, in October 2008 Helix produced their first Christmas CD.[25] Although Brian Vollmer has recorded Christmas songs before on a charity CD for his church called Raising The Roof on Mary Immaculate [4], A Heavy Mental Christmas was the first such release from the band.

By late 2008, Helix began working on a new studio album, their 12th, following up A Heavy Mental Christmas. These recording sessions coincided with another new Helix lineup: In February 2009, Brent "The Doctor" Doerner rejoined the band for the second time.[26] Sean Kelly, singer and lead guitarist of Toronto's Crash Kelly, joined as the new bass player. Brent Niemi was replaced on drums by former Sven Gali member Rob MacEachern, who had actually played drums on Get Up! and The Power of Rock and Roll in Niemi's absence.[27] Jim Lawson remained on guitar, VanDyk having departed to make room for the returning Brent Doerner. Work on the new studio CD progressed with Sean Kelly co-writing and co-producing.

In February 2009, Vollmer reunited the surviving members of the No Rest For The Wicked lineup (Brent Doerner, Mike Uzelac, and Greg Hinz) to record a new version of the AC/DC classic "It's a Long Way To The Top", to be included on a tribute album.[28] Concurrent to the new Helix lineup and CD, Brent Doerner formed his own band, My Wicked Twin: Brian Doerner (drums) and Mike Uzelac (bass, both ex-Helix), as well as Kitchener's Shane Schedler (lead guitar, formerly of Martyrs of Melody). They released their debut CD in January 2009.[29]

Current and 80s band reunion: July 2009-present

In an unexpected turn of events, after their July 10 2009 Rocklahoma performance, Sean Kelly amicably gave notice that he was quitting Helix to be the new guitar player in Nelly Furtado's band. His first date with Furtado was in Mexico City in September 2009.[30] After Kelly's departure, Brian Vollmer reunited the surviving members of the classic 80s lineup: Daryl Gray, Greg "Fritz" Hinz, and Brent Doerner. At their first rehearsal together, Hinz reported, "…it was like we had never left. We all fell right into the groove." [31] In regards to reuniting the old band, Vollmer cited fatigue of the rotating Helix lineups: “Daryl, Brent and Fritz have all ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt.’ So I thought, ‘What the hell? Why not just get the original band back together and save myself a big headache?’...We just realized we’re better as a unit — and I got sick of working in new people.” [32 ]

Daryl Gray was the first member to play live with the band, appearing August 9 2009 in Lewisporte, Newfoundland.[33] Jim Lawson's departure was announced on August 30, 2009. According to Vollmer, "Unfortunately the long distance between where he lives (Sudbury, Ontario) and where the band operates became a factor in Jim staying with us." [34] Kaleb "Duckman" Duck (BraVurA), who played on Brent's My Wicked Twin CD, was hired to fill in on guitar during the tour.[35]

The new Helix CD was tentatively It’s Rock Science, NOT Rocket Science!, before being changed to Vagabond Bones after a song co-written by Kelly.[36][37] Kelly, Doerner, Gray and Hinz all appear on the album. Russ Graham of Moxy and Killer Dwarfs sings a guest vocal on "Hung Over But Still Hanging In".[38] The music was described by Vollmer as music "which harkens back to our roots, yet sounds contemporary."[39] A western Canadian tour was played in October 2009.[40]

Brian Vollmer had a cameo appearance in the 2009 Trailer Park Boys movie Countdown To Liquor Day, released September 25 2009.[32 ][41] Helix also performed at the opening gala of the premier of the new Trailer Park Boys movie at the Halifax Metro Center.[42]

In addition to running the Helix business, Brian Vollmer also currently teaches the classical vocal technique, Bel canto, in London, Ontario, as well as singing classical music at weddings and funerals throughout southern Ontario.[43] He has given vocal lessons to members of the heavy metal band Kittie who also hail from London. His wife Lynda now helps with the running of the business from their home, which they have dubbed "Planet Helix".[27]

Band members

Current members

  • Brian Vollmer - lead vocals (1974-present)
  • Brent "The Doctor" Doerner - guitars, backing vocals (1975-1989, 1993, February 2009-present)
  • Greg "Fritz" Hinz - drums, percussion (1982-1996, August 2009-present)
  • Daryl Gray - bass, keyboards, backing vocals (1984-2002, August 2009-present)
  • Kaleb "Duckman" Duck - guitar (touring member September 2009-present)

Former members

  • Bruce Arnold - drums (1974-1976)
  • Ron Watson - guitar (1974-1975)
  • Rick "Minstrel" Trembley - guitar (1974)
  • Don Simmons - keyboards (1974-1976)
  • Keith "Bert" Zurbrigg - bass, backing vocals (1974-1980)
  • Paul Hackman - guitars, backing vocals (1975-1992)
  • Brian Doerner - drums, percussion (1976-1980, 2005-2006)
  • Leo Niebudek - drums (1980-1982)
  • Mike Uzelac - bass (1980-1983)
  • Peter Guy - touring bassist (1983)
  • Mark Rector - touring bassist (1983)
  • Denny Balicky (Blake) - touring guitarist (1990)
  • Greg "Shredder" Fraser - lead guitar (1993)
  • Rick Mead - guitar (mid to late 1990s, various shows)
  • Gary Borden - guitar (mid to late 1990s, various shows)
  • Mark Chichkan - guitar (mid to late 1990s, various shows)
  • Gerry Finn - guitar (late 1990s to early 2000s, various shows)
  • Mike Hall - guitar (late 1990s to early 2000s, various shows)
  • Darren Smith - guitar (late 1990s to early 2000s, various shows)
  • Glen "Archie" Gamble - drums (1996-2005)
  • Dan Fawcett - guitar (2002-2004)
  • Shaun Sanders - guitar (2002-2004)
  • Jeff "Stan" Fountain - bass (2002-2007)
  • Cindy Wiechmann - backup and lead vocals, percussion and acoustic guitar (2004-2007)
  • Rainer Wiechmann - guitar (2004-2007)
  • Paul Fonseca - bass (2007-2009)
  • Brent "Ned" Niemi - drums (2007-2009)
  • Rick VanDyk - guitars (2007-2009)
  • Sean Kelly - bass guitar (February 2009-August 2009)
  • Rob MacEachern - drums (February 2009-August 2009)
  • Jim Lawson - guitars (2004-August 2009)

Discography

Albums

Singles

  • Don't Hide Your Love (1979)
  • Heavy Metal Love (1983)
  • Rock You (1984)
  • Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' (1984)
  • (Make Me Do) Anything You Want (1984)
  • The Kids Are All Shakin' (1985)
  • Deep Cuts The Knife (1985)
  • Wild In The Streets (1987)
  • Dream On (1987)
  • The Storm (1990)
  • Running Wild In The 21st Century (1990)
  • Good To The Last Drop (1990)
  • That Day Is Gonna Come (1992)

Videos

  • S.E.X. Rated (DVD 2001, VHS 1991)
  • 30th Anniversary Concert (DVD 2004)
  • 30 Years Of Helix: No Rest For The Wicked (DVD 2004)

Related Recordings

  • Various artists - Got Ya Covered!! (1996) - featuring Helix's cover of "Set Me Free" by Sweet
  • Vollmer - When Pigs Fly (1999) - solo album by Brian Vollmer
  • Raising The Roof on Mary Immaculate (2005) - charity CD featuring Brian Vollmer and Cindy Wiechmann
  • Brent Doerner's Decibel - Brent Doerner's Decibel (2006) - solo album by Brent Doerner
  • My Wicked Twin - Decibel Music (2009)

Helix in popular culture

Helix was a topic of discussion by the Trailer Park Boys. You can find the discussion here on Wikiquote.

References

  1. ^ Hair Metal Mansion - Interview with Helix vocalist Brian Vollmer
  2. ^ Bravewords - SAGA Drummer Brian Doerner: "If I'd Been On The Plane, I'd Be Dead"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Vollmer, Brian (2004). Gimme An R! the story of Brian Vollmer, lead vocalist of Helix. Ball Media Corporation. ISBN 0-9739849-0-2.  
  4. ^ a b fullinbloom interview with Brian Vollmer of Helix
  5. ^ HELIX - 21st Century High Voltage Kicks
  6. ^ Planet Helix - Helix History 1987 Wild In The Streets
  7. ^ Billboard - Wild In The Streets
  8. ^ Sleaze Roxx - Paul Hackman
  9. ^ Canadian Music Periodical Index
  10. ^ Interview With Former BRIGHTON ROCK, HELIX Guitarist Available
  11. ^ Helix History - 1993
  12. ^ a b HELIX - An Open Letter From "Archie"
  13. ^ The London Music Archives - 1996
  14. ^ HELIX Complete New Studio Album
  15. ^ Metal Shrine - Mail-intervju - Brian Vollmer, Helix
  16. ^ HELIX - "Many Are Cold But Few Are Frozen"
  17. ^ HELIX - Release Date Confirmed For Gimme An R! Autobiography
  18. ^ HELIX - Lineup Change Announced For New Album
  19. ^ HELIX Enlist New Bassist
  20. ^ Bravewords - HELIX - EMI Canada Pulls Classic 'Heavy Metal Love' Track From Trailer Park Boys Movie Soundtrack
  21. ^ HELIX - Get Up! CD Now Available
  22. ^ New HELIX Material "Reminiscent Of The No Rest For The Wicked Album"
  23. ^ HELIX - US Release Date Confirmed For New Album
  24. ^ New HELIX Track Confirmed As Theme Song For The 2007 Sweden Rock Festival
  25. ^ HELIX Christmas CD Slated For Mid-October
  26. ^ Bravewords - HELIX Finish Recording Cover Of AC/DC Classic 'It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock And Roll'
  27. ^ a b Metal Rules - Brian Vollmer of Helix interviewed by Celtic Bob
  28. ^ Bravewords - HELIX Enlist CRASH KELLY's Sean Kelly As New Bassist
  29. ^ Bravewords - Former HELIX Members Form MY WICKED TWIN
  30. ^ CRASH KELLY Frontman Joins NELLY FURTADO
  31. ^ HELIX Drummer On Reunion Rehearsals - "It Was Like We Had Never Left; We All Fell Right Into The Groove"
  32. ^ a b A Helix story with a happy ending
  33. ^ Helix Rocks "The Rock"
  34. ^ HELIX - New Album Title Revealed
  35. ^ HELIX Complete New Studio Album; Track-By-Track Rundown Available
  36. ^ Bravewords - CRASH KELLY Frontman On Joining HELIX - "When I Dive Into Something I Dive In Full Tilt"
  37. ^ HELIX - Tentative Title Of New Album Revealed
  38. ^ Former KILLER DWARFS Singer To Guest On New HELIX Album
  39. ^ HELIX - Tentative Title Of Reunion Album Revealed
  40. ^ HELIX Part Ways With SEAN KELLY; Opens Door For Original Line-Up Reunion
  41. ^ Bravewords - HELIX Mainman Brian Vollmer Issues Year-End Update
  42. ^ HELIX Perform At Gala For New Trailer Park Boys Movie
  43. ^ Calgary Herald - 25 years later, Helix still wants to rock you

External links








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